Dictaphone corporation gave more prominence to the endorser
than to their product’s buyer benefits

You won’t learn much about the Dictaphone from this advertisement that describes the Dictaphone as a dictating machine.

More cor­rect­ly it’s a machine that per­mit­ted per­sons— in this case A.L. Blakeslee, pres­i­dent and gen­er­al manger of the Kala­ma­zoo Stove company—to dic­tate let­ters to sec­re­taries or typists.

The  Dic­ta­phone wasn’t actu­al­ly a sin­gle machine. It was three sep­a­rate, stand-alone machines —the record­ing machine, the typist’s play­back machine and the shaver. The adver­tise­ment car­ries this pho­to of the Dic­ta­phone record­ing machine.

The shaver? It’s very sim­ple. The recorder used a wax cylin­der which could be shaved to per­mit the record­ing of more dic­ta­tion. Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell cre­at­ed this device and its friend­ly wax cylin­ders around 1879.

dictaphone machine

The headline asserts, without any explanation, that using the Dictaphone is “like opening a savings account for your own office.”

Mr. Blakeslee goes on the say: “There’s no telling in how many dif­fer­ent ways the Dic­ta­phone may serve you and ben­e­fit your office until you have actu­al­ly expe­ri­enced the ease of speak­ing your thoughts, alone, into this remark­able dic­tat­ing machine.”

Accord­ing to Mr. Blakeslee it sim­pli­fies, sys­tem­izes, coor­di­nates, econ­o­mizes. It’s a con­ve­nience to an entire staff!

“One of the great­est detail absorbers I have ever seen,” says Mr. Blakeslee.

That’s very puz­zling. An absorber is defined as a ves­sel in which liq­uid is absorbed dur­ing dis­til­la­tion. An absorber extracts a sub­stance from a gas by absorb­ing the sub­stance into the liq­uid. Absorbers are typ­i­cal­ly tall cylin­ders in which the liq­uid flows down and gas bub­bles upward.

“That is the Dic­ta­phone sto­ry boiled down to facts,” Mr. Blakeslee con­cludes. “The mul­ti­ple con­ve­niences of this sys­tem are extend­ed to an entire staff of work­ers, sim­pli­fy­ing the duties of each indi­vid­ual, sys­tem­iz­ing pro­duc­tion as a whole. The result shows itself in the dol­lars-and-cents sav­ings effect­ed by absolute coor­di­na­tion from all hands.  In oth­er words…practical economy.”

Appar­ent­ly there is much to be said about the buy­er ben­e­fits of the Dic­ta­phone com­bi­na­tion. The coupon at the bot­tom of the adver­tise­ment offers some solace to the curi­ous busi­ness per­son who can send his/her name and address to the com­pa­ny because “I’d like to see how the Dic­ta­phone can apply its econ­o­my and con­ve­nience to my office.”

It was 1930 when this Dictaphone advertisement ran in World’s Work, a monthly magazine, published between 1900 and 1932, that carried national news from a pro-business point of view.

Shav­ing the wax cylin­ders had to be done with care. Too much pres­sure would take too much wax off the cylin­der: too lit­tle pres­sure and traces of pre­vi­ous record­ings would remain on the wax. I should know. I was a lit­tle shaver!

Mr. Blakeslee was pres­i­dent and gen­er­al manger of the Kala­ma­zoo Stove Co. For 50 years, many an Amer­i­can kitchen or home had been heat­ed by, or pre­pared fam­i­ly meals on, an appli­ance made in south­west Michigan.

You can read the his­to­ry of the Kala­ma­zoo Stove Co — HERE — in Museog­ra­phy, a pub­li­ca­tion of the Kala­ma­zoo Val­ley Muse­um and Kala­ma­zoo Val­ley Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege.  You’ll find the arti­cle on page 9.  Be sure also  to check the arti­cle on “A cen­tu­ry of Auto­mo­bil­ing in Kala­ma­zoo.” It is a rare look into the inven­tion and devel­op­ment of the automobile.